Incident Name: Controlled Burn at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune
Personnel: two lives lost
Colin Gene Thomas, Verona Volunteer Fire Department, 51 years
Steven Christopher Boehm, Onslow County Sheriff's Department, 36 years
A fire in an inaccessible area of a military base firing range had been burning for over 2 months. The fire was contained by means of a firebreak line that had been created using heavy equipment. On the morning of June 14th, smoke from the fire mixed with fog and created zero visibility conditions on a highway near the military base. A series of vehicle crashes occurred in the smoky area and the Verona Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched to assist.
Chief Gene Thomas arrived on the first engine company and reported heavy smoke and poor visibility conditions. As law enforcement officials arrived on the scene, additional crashes occured, at least one involving a law enforcement vehicle. The roadway was in the process of being shut down by law enforcement officers. Chief Thomas was outside of the engine, wearing full turnout gear and a reflective vest when he was struck by a tractor-trailer truck that had entered the scene. The report on the incident estimated the speed of the tractor-trailer at 55 miles per hour when it entered the scene. Chief Thomas died of multiple blunt trauma. Deputy Sheriff Steven Boehm also died.
From the USFA Database and the Onslow County Sheriff's Department
Fire Chief Gene Thomas & Deputy Sheriff Steve Boehm
- USFA Memorial Database: Colin Gene Thomas
- Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program: NIOSH Report
NIOSH investigators concluded that, in order to minimize the risk of similar occurrences, fire departments should:
- ensure that fire fighters responding to a scene involving a highway incident control oncoming traffic first, before responding to the emergency
- establish pre-incident traffic control plans and pre-incident agreements with law enforcement and other agencies such as highway departments
Additionally, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) should:
- ensure that emergency vehicles are parked in protected work areas when responding to emergency situations
Additionally, municipalities should consider:
- establishing a multi-agency communication system for response operations to coordinate and communicate incident activities
Although there is no evidence that the following recommendation could have specifically prevented this fatality, NIOSH investigators recommend that fire departments:
- ensure high-visibility vests meet minimum requirements of ANSI/ISEA 107-2004 or ANSI/ISEA 207-2006
- Press Release from the Onslow County Sheriff's Department
Officer Down: Deputy Sheriff Steve Boehm - [Jacksonville, North Carolina]
Cause of Death: Struck by vehicle
Deputy Steve Boehm and a local firefighter were struck and killed by a tractor trailer while directing traffic on US 17. The two, along with a deputy who was injured, were assisting at the scene of a controlled burn at Camp Lejeune.
The driver of the truck has been charged with two counts of misdemeanor death by vehicle and one count of exceeding the safe speed.
Deputy Boehm had served with the Onslow County Sheriff's Department for 10 years. He is survived by his wife and four children.
- Wreck kills Onslow firefighter, deputy directing traffic
Jun 14, 2008 | Online Article
VERONA, N.C. — A tractor-trailer struck and killed an Onslow County firefighter and sheriff's deputy while they were directing traffic on U.S. Highway 17 during a controlled burn on Saturday morning. Deputy Steve Boehm and fireman Gene Thomas, with the Verona Fire Department, died in the wreck, said Capt. Rick Sutherland, of the Onslow County Sheriff's Office. "(Thomas and Boehm) were killed this morning while fulfilling their call to protect and serve the citizens of Onslow County," Sutherland said in a release. "This loss is a great tragedy for everyone. These men served honorably."
At 4:50 a.m., Camp Lejune authorities called the sheriff's office to ask for help with traffic on U.S. 17. A controlled burn on the military base had created low visibility on the highway, Sutherland said. A few minutes later, a wreck occurred in the southbound lanes, and a second wreck took place in the northbound lanes directly across the highway. Boehm responded to the wreck in the southbound lanes, and Deputy Bill Hall and Verona firefighters, including Thomas, responded to the second wreck.
A vehicle traveling in the northbound lanes then sideswiped an emergency vehicle, and Boehm crossed U.S. 17 to assist, Sutherland said. Hall backed his patrol car farther up U.S. 17 to create a larger buffer for emergency personnel. When Hall got of the car, he saw the headlights of an approaching tractor-trailer.
The tractor-trailer struck and killed Boehm and Thomas, Sutherland said. Hall was struck by his patrol car and knocked to the side of the road. He was treated and released from New Hanover Regional Medical Center. U.S. 17 has been reopened after being shut down in both directions for several hours.
- Kornegay pleads guilty to 2008 deaths of deputy, firefighter
March 23, 2010 | Article No longer Online
The driver of a tractor-trailer that hit and killed an Onslow County deputy and a volunteer firefighter in 2008 will spend 20 days in jail and four years on probation, a judge ruled Tuesday. Robert Kornegay, 53, of Cumberland County, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Onslow County District Court to two counts of misdemeanor death by vehicle in the June 2008 deaths of Onslow County Sheriff’s deputy Steve Boehm and Verona volunteer firefighter Gene Thomas.
N.C. District Court Judge Joseph Blick sentenced Kornegay to the maximum sentenced allowed with no prior criminal history. Kornegay was also ordered to surrender his driver’s license for two years and perform 200 hours of community service with 50 hours spent restoring old graveyards.
“I think the judge wanted Mr. Kornegay to have some thinking time about what happened and thought working around those graves would give it time to settle in,” Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown said.
Boehm, 36, and Thomas, 51, were assisting motorists who had been in a wreck at about 5 a.m. June 14, 2008, on U.S. 17 between Dixon and Verona. They died after a truck exceeding 55 miles per hour and driven by Kornegay struck them while they were directing traffic in the area due to limited visibility on the highway because of fog and smoke from what Camp Lejeune officials said was the smoldering remains of a gun range fire.
“It has been 600 and some days since it happened and it is good to see it over,” Brown said. “Maybe, hopefully, the families will be able to gain some bit of closure and move on with their lives. We will never forget Steve or Mr. Thomas, but we need to move ahead.”
- Search Results with numerous articles regarding this accident: From JDNews.com
Photos, Videos, & Tributes
Fire Department: Verona Volunteer Fire Department
Address: 101 Verona Rd., Jacksonville, NC 28540 (USNG: 18S TD 7350 3916)
Telephone: (910) 455-4772
Fire Department Chief: Wayne Thomas
Incident Description: Firefighter Thomas passed away from injuries sustained when he was struck by a semi tractor-trailer on a stretch of US Highway 17 adjacent to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. Camp Lejeune contacted the Sheriff’s office shortly before 0500hrs requesting assistance with traffic control because of extreme low visibility conditions on the roadway due to smoke from a controlled burn on the Base combining with fog.
Firefighter Thomas, along with Onslow County Deputy Sheriff Steven Boehm, 36, who was also struck and killed by the tractor-trailer, had been directing traffic when a series of 8 vehicle collisions took place in the northbound travel lanes of the highway. Thomas, Boehm and others heard and responded to calls for help, searching through the fog and smoke when unfortunately they were struck by the tractor-trailer. The tractor-trailer then struck several other vehicles sending another deputy to the hospital; he was later released.
Incident Location: US Hwy 17 between High Hill Road (18S TD 7312 3750) and NC Hwy 210 (18S TD 7255 3028)
Funeral Arrangements: Visitation, 6-8PM 6/16/2008, Services, 11AM 6/17/2008 at Jones Funeral Home Chapel, 303 Chaney Ave, Jacksonville, NC 28540
Burial at Onslow Memorial Park
Donations may be made in honor of Firefighter Colin Gene Thomas, C/o Verona Volunteer Fire Department, 101 Verona Rd., Jacksonville, NC 28540.
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